With châteaux and vineyards producing some of the world’s greatest wines on the doorstep, Bordeaux is perfect for a nearby getaway. The Port de la Lune is the historical nickname for this riverside city (it sits alongside the Garonne), and at its heart is the Place de la Bourse, with its beautiful central fountain and Miroir d’Eau, a shallow reflective pool that pushes out jets of water that draw in delighted kids and adults alike.
What to do
A perfect first stop for anyone new to Bordeaux or indeed the wine of the region is a visit to Ecole du Vin. In an airy, chic classroom, study maps of the terroir of Bordeaux and its appellations then head downstairs to Le Bar à Vin, an airy bar offering stunningly good Bordeaux wines for incredibly good prices.
Travel through the wines of the region, with glasses of sparkling, dry and sweet whites, rosés and reds. Order some small plates of cheese and charcuterie and try Bordeaux Supérieur and Saint Émilion.
On Sunday, head for the market on the quay selling fresh fish and vegetables and other local gourmet delights. Buy bags of fleur de sel caramels and sit down at a camping table to shuck your way through a basin-load of oysters freshly hoiked from the bay at nearby Arcachon.
Where to stay
Base yourself in the heart of the lovely Chartons district – which is filled with antique shops and boutiques – at Chez Dupont, just moments from the river and the Sunday market on the quay. Chez Dupont is not a hotel, but five large rooms decorated in a boho style, with coffee-making facilities. Breakfast is taken at the sister Bistrot Chez Dupont, just across the street.
Hotel Burdigala is walking distance from St Seurin Basilica and has contemporary and chic rooms.
Where to eat
La Tupina. The city’s most famous restaurant is old school in style and heart, serving traditional dishes that make the most of the south west’s produce. Chickens turn on spits and potatoes lie underneath soaking up the juices.
Brasserie Bordelaise, as its name suggests, is full of Bordelais eating the best of bistro fayre. People queue in the street for a table. Much of the menu is sourced locally, with oysters from David Hervé in Marennes Oléron, caviar from Aquitaine, farm-made charcuterie and sausages as well as the famous Lamprais à la Bordelaise cooked in Saint-Émilion.
At Le Petit Commerce, teeny tables line either side of a pedestrianised street, piled with seafood platters spilling over with oysters, prawns, langoustine, winkles, whelks and grey shrimp for just €20.
Bordeaux is an easily walkable city. Otherwise, take the tram.
When to go
Spring to late autumn are the best months (July can be very hot, and very busy). Wine-lovers should check that the vineyards will be open for tastings during your visit.
Three things we like
- Jean d’Alos, one of France’s best cheese shops, where you can taste a vast selection or book a tour of the ancient cellars.
- Patisserie Antoine. The cakes are displayed in cases like a collection of the latest pieces from a jewellery designer. Try canelés, the local delicacy of tiny cakes of caramelised custard.
- Stroll the Triangle d’Or. Its three central boulevards, Cours Clemenceau, Cours de l’Intendance and Allées de Tourny, are lined with high-end shops, lovely cafés and bars and gorgeous buildings.
Something we don’t
We took a wine cruise with a bus out to the vineyards and a boat back – the return trip was far too long on the River Garonne with nothing much to see but muddy water.
The wine. Learn about it, taste it, drink it. If you want to buy it, visit L’Intendant, a stunning wine shop with a spiral staircase snaking up four floors, the prices mount as you ascend.
The antiques shops and boutiques of the cute little Chartons district.
Marché des Capucins. Bordeaux’s main market hall is filled with stalls selling the best of the French south-west’s larder.
High 50 insider tips
- The majority of Bordeaux wines are ‘extremely affordable’. Half of the wine here is entry level and, according to British-born Bordeaux wine educator Wendy Narby, Cru Bourgeois represents “very good value for money”.
- The famous La Tupina restaurant offers a lunchtime set menu that is great value at €18 for two courses, including the famous duck-fat chips.
- The Bassin d’Arcachon, with great forests, sand dunes, big waves and oysters, is just 55km southwest of Bordeaux.
Travelling with family
Bordeaux takes kids and teenagers seriously and has provided lots for them to do in public spaces. As well as the Miroir d’Eau, there’s a skate park, you can hire bicycles or take them to the beach, an hour away. But, given that this is the city of wine, why not make things easier and leave them behind.
Need to know
- The average flight time from London to Bordeaux is 1 hour 30 minutes
- The timezone is one hour ahead of us (UTC/GMT +1; BST +1).
- The currency is the Euro.
- By law, every bill includes the service of the employees but this is not a gratuity, so if you feel spoiled by your waiting staff, leave a little extra tip by way of appreciation.
- Two-pin European plugs are standard.